An owner of a Jamison shop has urged the community not to give donations to people sitting outside the front of her store begging for money after her staff and members of the public have had to endure a torrent of verbal, racial and physical abuse for not paying up.
Onur Cajina, who owns Discount Hut in the Jamison Plaza, says members of the public and even her staff have been at the receiving end of a spate of abuse from people begging on her doorstep for the past 18 months.
Ms Cajina said the same group of beggars in front of the store had verbally abused members of the public for not giving them money, had tried to steal from the donation bins at the local Anglicare and she had even witnessed them supplying cigarettes to underage kids in exchange for money.
But it was after one of her staff members was grabbed and shouted at by one of the regular beggars that she made a plea to the public to stop giving them money.
“We have been in Jamison for five years and over the course of the last 18 months, we have had people sitting at our doorstep looking for donations from members of the public,” she shared.
“Most of the time we haven’t had an issue with people sitting out there but we have incidents when they have shouted and screamed abusive language and it looks like it may become violent.
“There have been moments where we felt like we needed to lock the doors but we need to stay open for trading. The people in the offices above us can hear the abuse as well. It has been an incredibly uncomfortable position for us, especially our younger female staff.”
Ms Cajina said she felt helpless after her initial plea fell on deaf ears. In order to help her staff feel safer, she had rostered more on during the opening and closing times at the store.
“We have tried to have them moved on but we can’t,” she said. “We have made numerous phone calls to police and we have felt completely let down. A local community member has written to the Labor member for Ginninderra and has written to Mick Gentleman about this situation.
“We feel like it is a syndicate working here but despite all of this effort, we feel out of our depth. After the assault, we thought this is ridiculous and we aren’t getting the support we need.”
So Ms Cajina reached out to a local food charity and decided to put up a poster asking people to stop giving the beggars money and instead donate to ACT Food for Life, who cook food for the homeless.
Since putting the poster up in October last year after a year of altercations, she said the situation had slightly improved.
“We do not hate homeless people and we don’t have a business agenda here, but we want people to be aware of what is going on and point to a positive place to donate too,” she said.
“We wanted to raise an issue with our local community but also provide an opportunity for people to have a think about other ways they can donate. We hope there is a positive out of this and we can make a difference.”